I am a journalism major. At of the time of this writing, I have ten days before I transition from telling people, “I am a journalism major” to telling them, “I studied journalism.” There is a valley of difference between these two phrases. The former grants me the freedom to circumvent questions such as, “How is the job search going?” and “Where are you looking to work?” But the latter is a testament to my perseverance and determination as a product of the United States education system. The former phrase suggests that I am still “working on it” – whatever that means. The latter means the training is complete. The time for trial and error is over. Retail and restaurant jobs will not cut it ten days from now (I am not too upset about that, if I am honest). In ten days, despite becoming an adult at the age of 18 and a fun adult at the age of 21, I now prepare for the final step from childhood, irresponsibility, and dependency to productivity, discipline, and independency. At 18, I was an adult in the eyes of the law. At 21, I was an adult in the eyes of the alcohol industry. At 23, I am about to become an adult in the eyes of American society.
I did not choose to pursue journalism for lucrative reasons: the median salary for a journalist is $24,000. Pitiful at best and laughably impoverishing at worst. A lie, of course, there are probably much worse descriptions for a journalists’ salary. Anyway, I chose journalism because four years ago, a close friend took note that I had not yet figured out a path for my life. I asked for his help. He spent the night at my house, but we hardly slept. I had bought a massive whiteboard earlier that day in anticipation. Together, he and I worked through every one of my interests, hobbies, likes, and dislikes to find a path that best suited me. We started at 7p and stayed up until 5a the next morning. From Venn diagrams, color-coded fields, pro’s and con’s, levels of interest, and a hell of a lot of Redbull, we forged a path for me. With his help, I was able to find an industry that could exercise all of my interests at different times. Writing, History, Technology, Photography, Law, Psychology, Philosophy, Politics, Architecture, and Arts and Entertainment could all find a home in the field of news. Not to mention, my textbook narcissism.
That is the selfish reason for my decision. But, to remain honest to myself and you, the reader, there is another reason for my choice to pursue journalism: I have an insatiable desire to inform others. Everything I learn, I want to share. I live to share my experiences. From making friends to losing friends, finding love, managing multiple jobs, balancing school and social life, money management, politics, current events, philosophies on the world, questions greater than ourselves, losing my virginity, my familial relationships, blacking out in another country and losing a federal judge’s daughter – we do not have to get in to that one. In fact, I think you get my point. Of my group of friends, both at Marist (of whom I have just found this semester) and home, it is not uncommon for one or two or six of them to confront me, asking to explain a political matter to them. In the past, friends have asked me about the Affordable Care Act, the 2013 government shutdown, the roles of the three branches of government, Supreme Court decisions, and now the 2016 presidential election. People ask me for information all the time. And more so- these same people trust me. Most of them are fully aware of my political leanings and I am aware of most of theirs. Yet, despite refusing to support Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or any of the other twenty (yes, twenty) candidates who have run in this cycle, the Bernie Sanders and the Donald Trump and the Hillary Clinton supporters still choose to ask me what is going on in the world of politics. These people know we may find harsh political difference, yet they willingly reserve their inquisitions until near me. Hell, even my sister, a star student of Widener University Law School who owns her own private practice, has asked me to explain certain political matters to her. My mother and brother, too, all of whom are at least 37 years old.
I love it. I feed off of it. It gives me the energy and the drive to find answers to questions before they are even asked. It pushes me to find the truth, whatever that truth may be. My need to deliver accurate and honest information to people I care about transcends any personal want to only seek information that is self-satisfying.
My Intercultural Communications professor taught me something about myself, though. For as much as I want to shed light on a subject and share my findings with the people and world around me, I am handicapped by my own tongue. My tongue, which has never been unhealthy (save for a few bloody bites), is the reason why ‘my’ work and ‘my’ information and ‘my’ findings will always, simply, be ‘mine.’ Whatever answers I try to provide for those inquisitive friends is a reality watermarked with my name. There is always the hope that ‘my’ reality is closer to the cornerstone of journalism- that is, objectivity- than it is to subjectivity; but, those hopes can never be validated until my work is finished and exposed to others. The others that I wish so badly to inform.
The English language is tricky. First, you read this as ‘lead.’ Now, you read it as ‘lead.’ We have instances where the same group of letters are arranged in the same order and are pronounced differently, leading to wholly different definitions. Yet, our language lacks many situational and descriptive words common in other languages. During the discussion in class on language barriers, I was reminded of a word my Western Literature professor taught me in my first semester at Marist. We were learning about Greek mythology. He spent a solid ten minutes explaining to us the word, “kleos.” No translation for ‘kleos’ exists in the English language. But, in Greek mythology, it was one of the most important words in their arsenal. The closest word we have to it is ‘glory,’ but even that is dicey. Kleos is, essentially, the ultimate and infinite form of glory and pristine. It was used to describe the Greek warriors Odysseus, Achilles, and Hercules. Their kleos was near god-like, crippled only by their mortality. Kleos meant their names would be sung for eons, long after the fall of ancient Greece- a tad ironic, then, that the English language teaches the stories of these Greek warriors but does not adopt a word which describes their status in society.
People have called me a narcissist. It is probably a true statement: I do not know if it is possible for someone to want to stand before the world and try to change it without thinking a little highly of themselves. But my definition of narcissism, my “brand” of narcissism, my understanding of narcissism may be very different from the definition you have for the same word. I may look at narcissism as a form of protection from psychological torment whereas you may look at it as a hallow form of self-righteousness. Despite our words carrying definitions- definitions our society have largely agreed upon- the weight and value we invest in those words vary. This is my great fear for the work I will produce as a journalist. It is probably the fear of many journalists- that the words we use create a depiction for others that is different from that which we are attempting to describe.
I am a journalism major. In ten days, I will become a graduate of journalism. My great passion is informing people. But I am handicapped by my own dialect. The information I share is only as accurate as my language permits. It is only as influential to others as their language permits. I wrote this without using a single contraction to prove the point about the influence of language on the human mind. I challenge you to compare this piece to one written with contractions. I challenge you to notice the difference.